With that said, though, within confessional bounds intellectuals should feel exhilarating freedom as they research, write, and teach. They are serving the Lord in their work just as Christians in all other honorable professions and callings do. They are not hampered by the Bible; they are set free by it.
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
Yesterday’s post has been spinning in my mind since I wrote it, and I’ve been updating the list of leading evangelical scholars since I published it (it’s kind of fun, which is a sure sign of nerdery). There’s one point in particular that I realized I needed to expand from the essay.
It’s this: evangelical scholars have far more reason to engage the life of the mind than their peers. Why? Because of the verse cited above, Matthew 22:37. The greatest commandment of them all, the apex of Jesus’ teaching, instructed Christ’s disciples to love God with the entirety of their being. This necessarily included loving the Lord with “all” their mind. It’s one of just three aspects of the human person mentioned here: heart, soul, mind.
So we’re to love God with the totality of our person. That’s what I think the greatest commandment means; we don’t love Jesus half-heartedly or with partial devotion to something else. The book of James makes this clear as it develops the central theme of pursing single-minded faith, not a dipsuchos or “double-minded” faith, which is really no faith at all. Christians love this commandment, and you’ll hear it cited and even preached on in many evangelical churches. But the part we tend to isolate from it is the “heart” part. In other words, we have a tendency to boil this central teaching of Christ down to a kind of simple piety. Love Jesus with your heart; shut out the rest.
Fundamentally I agree with this conviction. At the end of the day, it’s Jesus or nothing. When I’m faced with a choice between following Jesus or following some other influence, as a Christian my course has to be set on the Messiah. But while you can justly reduce Christian faith to heart-love, I think you can also zoom out of this verse and get a wider view. What do I mean? Loving Jesus means at minimum that he is your lodestar; at maximum, however, it means that every last particle of your life, every hour of the day you have, every action you undertake, is devoted to him.
And this includes the life of the mind.